A’s finish sweep of Rangers, win AL West

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The A’s finished off their incredible comeback in style Wednesday, overcoming a 5-1 deficit to pound the Rangers 12-5 and win the AL West.

Today marks the first time all year the A’s have been alone in first place in the AL West. They were as many as 13 games behind Texas on June 30.

The A’s claimed the division despite finishing the season with a rotation containing five rookies. They had one All-Star (reliever Ryan Cook) to the Rangers’ eight. It’s quite likely that they’ll place no one in the top 10 in the AL MVP balloting or in the top five in the Cy Young balloting.

Texas jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third today in part because the A’s failed to handle a pair of popups. The first one resulted in one out anyway (the runner had to wait halfway between first and second on the fly to shallow right), but it likely would have been a double play had it been caught, since Josh Hamilton ran from second to third on the ball. The second popup fell just fair about a third of the way down the third-base line.

The A’s came right back in the fourth, though, collecting three straight hits to knock Ryan Dempster out of the game. They tied it at 5 on a Coco Crisp double. Later, with two outs and two on, Yoenis Cespedes hit a fly to center than Hamilton seemed to see all of the way. However, at the very last second, he apparently lost it in the sun, as it ended up going just wide of his glove for a two-run error.

The Oakland bullpen kept the Rangers quiet from there, doing a masterful job once again. Evan Scribner pitched three scoreless innings after starter A.J. Griffin was pulled in the third. Cook turned in a scoreless seventh while working for the fifth straight day and then fellow rookie Sean Doolittle tossed a scoreless eighth while pitching on a fourth straight day. The A’s busted it open in the bottom of the eighth, scoring four runs to up their lead from three to seven.

Despite the result today, the A’s still have no idea who they’ll be facing in the postseason. It could even be the Rangers if the Yankees lose, giving the A’s the AL’s top seed, and the Rangers win the wild card game against the Orioles or Yankees.

Rob Manfred blames Bryce Harper for going unsigned

Bryce Harper
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Commissioner Rob Manfred spoke with the media today. Naturally, he was asked various questions about the landscape of the sport, given that superstars Manny Machado and Bryce Harper remain unsigned as spring training begins. Per The Athletic’s Brittany Ghiroli, Manfred said that he thinks the free agent market will begin to move once spring training exhibition games begin. Manfred also said that Harper’s camp suggesting that he wants $400 million back in 2016 was “an impediment” to discussions throughout the offseason.

No word on why Machado is also as yet unsigned, as he did not have a reported $400 million ask.

Manfred’s job is to look out for ownership, so it’s not surprising to see him point the finger at Harper. Consider:

Manfred’s comment comes just months after the Red Sox won 108 regular season games and the World Series with baseball’s largest payroll. And ongoing evidence that there is indeed a positive correlation between dollars spent and team success. We often hear justification for tanking/rebuilding because the Cubs and Astros did it and won championships because of it. When the Red Sox use financial muscle to win a championship, it’s crickets.

Manfred didn’t stop there, however.

An easy way to get baseball’s “glow” back would be for two of the game’s best and most popular players to be in uniform playing games. The first spring training exhibition game will be played on February 22, so it’s not looking like that’s going to happen anytime soon.

Baseball’s “glow” would also come back if more teams were actively trying to win. Instead, one-third of the league is “rebuilding” or otherwise coasting on revenue-sharing. For fans of the Rangers, Orioles, Royals, and Marlins — to name a few — the outcomes of their favorite teams’ seasons have already been decided, so what is there to get excited about?